| 2 February 2023, Thursday |

Will patients die needlessly because they can’t afford hospital bills?

Prime Minister Najib Mikati stressed during a consultative and participatory meeting in the Economic and Social Council that “the initial talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are good and that negotiations are moving in the right direction.”

He said that “Lebanon has provided unified numbers to the Fund,” revealing that there will soon be a memorandum of understanding with the IMF.

Mikati announced that he had discussed with “Lazard” the economic recovery plan and he would receive the plan during this month, pointing out that there is full coordination with the Central Bank.

Mikati also mentioned that he is trying to secure funds for the ration card from the World Bank, and that the platform is ready.

Insured or not, you cannot admit the hospital if you don’t pay millions of pounds, which is 20% of your bill in dollars, and is not covered by insurance companies or official guarantors.

The imaginary amounts that hospitals demand from patients when they admit the hospital to perform operations or medical service, are the financial differences on bills that hospitals price in dollars and submit to insurance companies or official guarantors.

Medical supplies, medicines, diesel and other things are included in the operational costs of hospitals and have become unsubsidized. Hospital bills have risen and are no longer at 1500 LBP, but rather according to the dollar exchange rate. On the other hand, insurance companies and official guarantors did not change their tariffs.

The head of the Hospital Owners Syndicate, Sleiman Haroun, explained to Sawt Beirut International that insurance companies pay hospitalization bills for valid policies only, half of which in dollars through bank checks, and the other half at the exchange rate of 1,500 LBP. This forces hospitals to charge patients with the differences in bills priced in dollars. This means that the patient pays differences of 15 to 20 percent of the value of the bill in cash or its equivalent at the market price, meaning large sums of tens of millions of pounds that the citizen cannot afford. The result is cancelling the surgery, and therefore the endurance of disease and pain.

Haroun revealed that hospital admissions fell by 40 percent due to the inability of patients to pay the differences, and those who enter the hospital are on the verge of death. He said that there are currently discussions with insurance companies to pay part of hospital bills in dollars in cash or at the market price, as companies tend to price new policies in fresh dollars or at the market price.

As for the official guarantors, Haroun announced that an agreement had been reached with the Lebanese army on a new tariff, and there are negotiations with the Minister of Public Health currently regarding the other guarantors in order to raise their tariffs. However, the big problem lies in the Nation Social Security Institution Fund and the Employees Cooperative that are unable to finance the raising tariffs because there is no possibility to raise the insurance contributions at the present time.

Consequently, until a governmental solution to this crisis is reached, patients would die needlessly.

As if the rise in private generator bills was caused by the failure to install meters and not due to lifting fuel subsidies, Minister of Economy Amin Salam toured Tarik Al Jdeedeh and Ashrafieh road to ensure the commitment of private generator owners to install meters in accordance with the law, but he was met with objections by some violators.

During his tour on the Tarik Jdeedeh and Cola road, the protesters deliberately threw dynamite bombs, forcing the minister to leave because the generators could not be detected, and after their owners refused to answer his calls and come to meet him. It is worth noting that the generator owners assert that the installation of meters is insufficient, and the main problem is the lack of electricity.

  • Sawt Beirut International